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Taiwanese military mass wedding to feature same-sex couples

Chen Ying-xuan and Lee Ying-ying, one of the two same-sex couples taking part in Friday’s ceremony. Photograph: Liang Chen/Republic of China Army

Two same-sex couples are to be married in the Taiwanese army’s annual mass wedding ceremony this week, in a first after the island’s government legalised marriage equality 18 months ago.

The female soldiers and their civilian partners – Chen Ying-xuan and Lee Ying-ying, and Wang Yi and Meng Youmei – will wed on Friday.

Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, has become one of the most progressive communities in Asia since it transitioned from authoritarian rule in the late 1980s. It became the first place in the region to legalise same-sex marriage in May 2019.

The military said: “Our country … has become the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage and the ministry gives its blessings to same-sex servicemen who are getting married.”

It posted dozens of wedding photos of couples taking part in Friday’s formalities and asked people to vote on their favourite. The photo of Wang and Meng has been liked more than 31,000 times on Facebook alone.

Wang Yi and Meng Youmei. Photograph: Republic of China Army

“Not only did you make your presence felt, but you also make “our” voice heard. So, so proud of you!” wrote one commenter. Another wrote: “You defend our country, we defend your freedom.”

A Taipei city councillor commented: “Love makes Taiwan stronger, bless every lover, and cheer for the continuous improvement of the national army.”

A spokesperson for a social media group advocating for LGBT awareness in the military told the Guardian they were pleased to see a traditionally conservative institution accept and “give blessings” to same-sex marriage.

“This is not only a great encouragement to the LGBT community but also to the army,” they said. “It’s proof that LGBT people can have equal rights and, like everyone else, are capable of defending the country.”

Three same-sex couples were due to take part in last year’s ceremony but withdrew.

Thousands of couples have registered their marriage since the 2019 law took effect. While the law has been widely celebrated, it does not grant full equality. Taiwanese people seeking to marry foreigners of the same sex can only do so if their partner’s home country also legally recognises marriage equality.

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Adoption and assisted reproduction rights are also more restrictive than for heterosexual couples, with gay couples only allowed to adopt children biologically related to one of them.

The ceremony is being held the day before Taiwan Pride, the annual LGBTQI parade in Taipei.

First openly gay election candidate in Myanmar: ‘I didn’t want to lie to get votes’

The first openly gay election candidate in Myanmar, Myo Min Tun, has vowed to fight police abuse of LGBT+ people if he wins.

The 39-year-old entered politics after transgender friends told him the abuse they suffered. In one incident, officers forced them to take off their bras and kneel before touching them inappropriately.

Myo Min Tun told AFP: ‘This was a violation of their rights. And I realised there’s no one in parliament to talk about this.

‘I’m doing this to be a pioneer for all LGBT people so they know we can be anyone we want.’

Indeed, LGBT+ people have long complained of police abuse, including wrongful arrests and beatings in his township of Aung Myae Tharzan.

So he is running for a seat in the regional assembly which governs the city of Mandalay, the Asian country’s second biggest city.

He told Myanmar now:

‘Only LGBT people know about the lack of LGBT rights, the problems with the police, and how the police have unlawfully arrested those from the LGBT community. I understand LGBT people because I’m one of them.’

‘I will be criticized more than the others’

Myo Min Tun, 39, has previously been a florist, noodle soup chef and HIV prevention worker.

He knew he was gay when he fell in love with a fellow student while in grade nine at school. And while his father disapproved, he thinks ‘my mother loved me even more for it’.

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Moreover, he says: ‘I have always been actively involved in my community, so they recognise me for who I am.’

However, LGBT+ people in Myanmar face significant discrimination and criminalization.

In particular, the country retains its British colonial era law against gay sex – Section 377.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) says it stands against discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, rights groups says it’s failed to act in its first term.

The NLD is now likely to win the regional and national elections on 8 November.

However Myo Min Tun is standing for the People’s Pioneer Party. The PPP, he says, has an ‘anti-discriminatory stance and because they favour young people’.

PPP leader Thet Thet Khine thinks it’s a basic human right to legalize gay sex. However, she fears it is ‘not the time’ to argue for it as it would create a ‘backlash’.

Despite this, Myo Min Tun hopes to change hearts and minds and tackle the daily acts of discrimination the community faces.

He said: ‘People are bound to criticize and make bad comments when an LGBT person runs in the election… I will be criticized more than the others.

But he added: ‘I didn’t want to lie to get votes. I believe if I’m fair and truthful, people will support me.’

Indonesia cracks down on gay sex in the armed forces

Amnesty International has condemned the Indonesia Military for jailing and dismissing a soldier because he had gay sex with another officer.

The Semarang Military Court, on Indonesia’s main island of Java, tried the chief private, identified only as P. It found him guilty of violating Article 103 of the Military Criminal Code on disobedience to service orders because he had sex with a subordinate.

The court sentenced him to one year in jail and dishonorably discharged him from the army.

Now Amnesty International Indonesia has condemned the Indonesian Military (TNI) for its policy on gay sex in the ranks. Executive director Usman Hamid said:

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‘This unjust sentence should be immediately overturned and the individual immediately released. No one should be persecuted based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

‘It further enshrines discrimination and risks inciting violence against perceived LGBT people inside the military and in wider society.’

Moreover, Amnesty also highlighted other cases of LGBT+ persecution in the armed forces. 

It said that in March a court convicted military officer in Denpasar, on the holiday island of Bali, of having sex with three men. The officer appealed but the Surabaya Military High Court backed the martial court in Denpasar.

Meanwhile the TNI responded that it would always punish homosexuality in the force.

Further crack down on homosexuality

Technically, homosexuality is only illegal in a few regions of Indonesia. The most notably is the province of Aceh where the authorities punish gay sex with flogging.

However, the authorities frequently use other laws, including one against pornography, to round up and prosecute LGBT+ people.

This August, they arrested 56 men on a raid on a private gay party in the capital, Jakarta. Likewise, in 2017 they arrested 141 men in a raid on a gay sauna.

Meanwhile, Indonesian politicians have been stirring up anti-LGBT+ sentiment and promising even tougher laws against gay people.

They proposed a new law which would make homosexuality illegal across the Southeast Asian nation. The law would force people into LGBT+ ‘conversion camps’ to undergo ‘exorcisms’.

Moreover, police have formed a special task force to persecute the LGBT+ community in the guise of ‘investigating homosexuality’.

Like the military, the police also punish homosexuality within their own ranks. They justify this by citing the 2014 National Police code of ethics. It states that all personnel should follow moral, religious and legal norms as well as local wisdom.

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